Last night I was fortunate enough to get out to a free screening of the Hubble IMAX movie out in Norwalk, Connecticut, which also included both an engineering and a science lecture up front about the Fine Guidance Sensors, which were designed and built (along with a lot of the other parts of the telescope) in Danbury, Connecticut. This was all put on by Western Connecticut State University as part of their 20 years of Hubble celebration this year.
It was a really neat evening. There were a lot of folks in the audience who were engineers that worked to build the Hubble in Danbury, at least a dozen folks were called out by name and stood up to roaring applause by the crowd for all their hard work. The engineering talk on the FGS probably was more than I ever thought I'd know about interferometry, and did go through some of the basics the challenge of building the Hubble. The FGS are effectively the star tracking sensors that ensure the hubble can stay stable and pointed as it's moving between -100 C / +45 C temperature swings every 90 minutes as it flies around Earth.
The science talk followed which specifically talked about some of the extra science they got out of the FGS, including finding planets, doing atmosphere analysis of Neptune's moon Triton, and allowing for the Hubble Ultra Deep Field view, one of the most amazing pictures that has ever been taken.
After the talks, we went straight into the Hubble IMAX film. It was 2D only, but totally immersive none the less. The entire film is incredible, get out and see it if you can. One part at the beginning is going to stick with me forever though, which is the fly out to the Orion Nebula. Because Hubble has taken such detailed measurements of the Orion Nebula they were able to construct a 3D fly through of the stellar nursery there. Except for the very last part on the forming solar system, this isn't a simulation, this is images brought to life. It's completely breath taking.
The Hubble is a great instance of the things we can create, and the discoveries we can make, when we come together with open minds trying to ask a seemingly simple question, what's out there in the universe, and how does it work. The Hubble turns 20 in April, and because of this final servicing mission it hopefully has many great years ahead of it.
Thanks again to WCSU for pulling the night together, and Paul Granich from the Mid Hudson Astronomical Association for letting us know about it and organizing the dozen of us to make our way down.